The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

III. Poets of the Civil War II

§ 5. Dixie; The Bonnie Blue Flag

The feeling of the South as represented by all these poets first expressed itself in music. Southern soldiers were quick to seize upon Dixie, the words of which had been written by Dan D. Emmett for Bryant’s minstrels in 1859. Except for the refrain and a few haunting phrases, the words were totally inadequate, but the music proved to be the chief inspiration of Southern armies throughout the long conflict. Sung for the first time by Mrs. John Wood in New Orleans late in 1860, it was taken up by the Louisiana regiments and was soon heard by the campfires and hearthstones of the South. From New Orleans, too, came The Bonnie Blue Flag, an old Hibernian melody, with words written by an Irish comedian, Harry McCarthy, a volunteer soldier in the Confederate Army from Arkansas. The enthusiasm aroused by its first rendition at the Varieties Theatre in 1861 is well described by a later writer. The theatre was filled with soldiers from Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana on their way to the front. McCarthy appeared on the stage accompanied by his sister waving a Confederate flag. “Before the first verse was ended the audience was quivering with excitement. After he sang the second stanza the audience joined in the chorus and sang it over and over again amid the most intensive excitement. It was wafted to the streets and in twenty-four hours it was all over the Southern Army.” For the crude words of both these melodies were soon substituted various versions more dignified and intellectually more worthy of the Southern cause. Of all these, the most striking version of Dixie was written by Albert Pike, and the most stirring words for The Bonnie Blue Flag by Mrs. Annie Chambers Ketchum. But not even these versions took the place in the army, or have since taken the place in the affections of the Southern people, held by the first forms.